Covel & Osborn Company Letterhead Invoice, 1904

Osborn Family of Fall River Massachusetts

During the latter half of the century but recently closed and on into the present one, during the period of the great growth and development as an industrial center of Fall River, the name Osborn has stood out conspicuously in the business life of the city. Reference is made notably to the Osborn brothers — the late Hon. Weaver and James Munroe Osborn — for many years among the most prominent mill promoters and bankers of Fall River; and they have been followed by a generation now representative of the name and family, Mr. James E. Osborn, the son of James M., being now active and prominent in the same line of operation the father followed, is treasurer of the American Linen Company and Merchants’ Manufacturing Company and president of the Covel & Osborn Company, dealers in hardware and mill supplies. This Osborn family here treated is one of at least a century and three quarters’ standing in Rhode Island and the nearby part of Massachusetts. Still earlier than the beginning of the period just named there is a record of the family of Jeremiah and Mercy Osband at Bristol, now R. I., as early as 1684, the date of birth of their first child. Their children were:

  1. Robert Osband, born Aug. 11, 1684
  2. Katherine Osband, born Nov. 12, 1686
  3. John Osband, born Oct. 12, 1689
  4. Jeremiah Osband, born July 25, 1693
  5. Margaret Osband, born May 27, 1695
  6. Sarah Osband, born May 11, 1701
  7. Jeremiah Osband (2), born June 11, 1706

One Nathaniel Osband petitioned the General Court at its May session, held at Newport, 1682.

So far as has been traced the genealogy of the Fall River Osborn family, the special branch to be here treated, extends to the family of William Osband, who was born Aug. 16, 1729, and it is assumed at Newport, R. I, from the fact that he came from that place when a boy and lived during his minority with Samuel Hicks, of Tiverton. He spelled his name Osband. Of his children Weaver alone so spelled it (Osband), the rest, Osborn. This William Osband was the grandfather of the late Osborn brothers of Fall River alluded to above.

William Osband, of Newport and Tiverton, R. I., born as stated Aug. 16, 1729, married May 28, 1752, in Tiverton, Elizabeth Shrieve, of that town, daughter of William Shrieve. Mr. Osband died Oct. 29, 1810. His wife died about 1814. Their children were:

  1. Wilson Osborn, born June 3, 1753, died about 1757
  2. Weaver Osband, born April 17, 1756
  3. Elizabeth Osborn, born June 8, 1758
  4. Patience Osborn, born July 17, 1761, died quite young
  5. Thomas Osborn, born March 31, 1766
  6. William Osborn, born July 18, 1769

Thomas Osborn, son of William and Elizabeth (Shrieve) Osband, born March 31, 1766, married in 1797 Ann, born March 6, 1775, daughter of Joseph and Abigail (Borden) Durfee, of Tiverton, R. I. Mr. Osborn was a ship cooper and farmer in Tiverton, R. I. He died there Oct. 7, 1833. His wife Ann died May 23, 1845, in Tiverton. Their children were:

  1. William Osborn, born Nov. 26, 1798, married Ruth Hambly, and died in Tiverton, R. I., Jan. 28, 1829
  2. Thomas Osborn, born Dec. 30, 1800, married Elizabeth S. Hambly and died in Tiverton March 1, 1884
  3. Joseph Osborn was born Aug. 20, 1803
  4. Ann Osborn, born Dec. 4, 1805, died in 1812
  5. Wilson Osborn, born April 15, 1808, married Mary Allen, and died Aug. 29, 1873
  6. Eliza Ann Osborn, born May 25, 1810, married Rev. Alexander Milne, and died in Fall River, Aug. 18, 1887
  7. Patience Osborn, born Aug. 29, 1812, died in 1817
  8. Weaver Osborn was born May 23, 1815
  9. James Munroe Osborn was born Aug. 27, 1822

Of this family, Judge Joseph Osborn, born Aug. 20, 1803, spent his entire life at Tiverton, where for many years he was one of the foremost citizens of the town. In his early life he did a large business in the buying and selling of live stock, and later invested heavily in the cotton mills of Fall River, accumulating a fortune. Under the old regime he was a judge of the court of Common Pleas, was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1841, represented Tiverton in both branches of the General Assembly of Rhode Island, was treasurer of the town of Tiverton for the long period of forty-four years, and was at one time a member of the Board of State Charities and Corrections. He was a director of the Osborn Mills, one of the organizers and a director of the Pocasset National Bank and president of the Fall River Savings Bank from its organization, in 1851, until his death. He married Eliza Gardner, and their children were:

  1. Ann Catherine Osborn
  2. William Joseph Osborn
  3. Jason Woodward Osborn
  4. Eliza Gardner Osborn
  5. Henry Clay Osborn

William Joseph Osborn, son of Judge Joseph, was born Dec. 3. 1836, in Tiverton, R. I., was educated in the public schools, at Pence’s Academy, Middleboro, Mass., and at Bryant & Stratton’s Business College, Providence. After leaving school he accepted a position as clerk in the freight depot of the Old Colony Railroad Company, at Boston, Mass., where he spent three years. He then came to Fall River and was a clerk in the Citizens’ Savings Bank, after which he became a partner of Prank A. Brackett, in the wholesale and retail tea and tobacco business at Boston, under the firm name of Brackett & Osborn. Later, after the Civil war, he removed to New York, where he became interested in railroading and banking. He afterward became a stockbroker and was a member of the Consolidated Stock Exchange. He was noted for his honesty and upright dealings, was fully trusted by his patrons, and achieved well merited success. While walking in a Benjamin Harrison political procession in New York City, Nov. 3, 1888, he was taken suddenly ill and died in the street. He was buried in Oak Grove cemetery at Fall River. His religious connection was with the First Baptist Church, Pierpont street, Brooklyn, N. Y.; in politics he was a Republican; and in fraternal circles a Mason.

On June 19, 1873, Mr. Osborn married Hannah Humphrey French, daughter of Stephen L. and Phoebe Ann (Dwelley) French. Mr. and Mrs. William J. Osborn had one son:

  1. Charles French Osborn, who was born May 2, 1878. After graduating from the Fall River high school, he entered Williams College, where he graduated in 1901, with high honors, and winning several special scholarship prizes. He became connected with special branches of the United States government service, serving for a time in the Bureau of Animal Industry, and is now connected with the Bureau of Commerce and Labor.

After the death of her husband Mrs. Osborn returned to Fall River, where she has since resided. She is prominent in educational circles, and served as a member of the school committee of Fall River in 1898, 1899 and 1900, and again from 1902 to 1908, finally declining a renomination. She is a member of the First Baptist Church.

Weaver Osborn, son of Thomas and Ann (Durfee) Osborn, was born May 23, 1815, in Tiverton, R. I. Until eighteen years of age he remained at home, alternating between work on the farm in season and attendance at the neighborhood school, and for a short time he attended the seminary at Little West Hill, South Kingstown, R. I. Beginning an apprenticeship at the blacksmith’s trade at the age of eighteen years at Fairhaven, this State, he completed it and followed that line of work until the year 1871. From 1835 to 1843 he carried on blacksmithing in a shop of his own at Tiverton, R. I. The next year was passed at work in Providence, R. I. From 1844 to 1848 he was in the employ, as journeyman, of Andrew Robeson. Returning again to his native town he resumed business there and carried it on until January, 1855, at which time his shop was destroyed by fire. He then removed to Fall River, where he and his brother James M. Osborn entered into a co-partnership and carried on business under the firm name of W. & J. M. Osborn until 1871, though both brothers had long prior to this been identified with a number of mills and enterprises and were active and influential in the growth of their adopted city; and after they had dropped their blacksmithing business were long associated together in business enterprises.

Few men, perhaps, were more closely connected with the industrial growth of Fall River than was Mr. Weaver Osborn. He was chiefly instrumental in getting the stock taken and building the first mill in 1872 and became director and president of the corporation operating the mills which took his name, the Osborn Mills. He was a director of the Montaup Mills Corporation. He was elected president of the Pocasset National Bank in 1873, and sustained such relation to it for many years. He became a director in the bank in 1854 when it was organized as the Pocasset Bank, under the State laws, and continued such relation through life. He had been a member of the board of investment from the very start and was the last survivor of the original board, and from 1873 to the end of life was chairman of the board. For many years before his death he was also a trustee of the Citizens’ Savings Bank of Fall River, and of the State Workhouses at Bridgewater and Tewksbury, Mass. He was entrusted with the settlement of many estates.

Originally a Whig, casting his first presidential vote for Henry Clay, Mr. Osborn became a Republican on the organization of that party and ever afterward acted with it, and as a Republican he represented Fall River in the State Senate in 1857, 1858 and 1859 and again in 1879, and served on a number of important committees, among them the Military. In 1868, 1869, 1871, 1873, 1876 and 1877, he was a member of the lower house from his city.

In his young life Mr. Osborn took an interest and was active in the militia of the State, and passed through the grades from private to captain. He was out in the “Dorr war.” Among Mr. Osborn’s chief characteristics were strict integrity, sound practical judgment and unswerving fidelity to every trust committed to his care. As blacksmith, cotton-mill promoter, banker and legislator, he achieved distinction and honor, and throughout an active career enjoyed the confidence, respect and esteem of all who knew him. He was a man of decision, great force of character, and unfailing resources, and in every sense a representative and enterprising citizen. His sympathy and practical assistance were always at the command of young men endeavoring to get a start in life, and he was especially the friend of the poor. He died Feb. 6, 1894, at his home in Fall River.

On Jan. 7, 1837, Mr. Osborn married Patience B., born May 27, 1817, daughter of Daniel and Mary (Slade) Dwelly, of Tiverton, R. I., who survived him. She was born in Tiverton, R. I., and died June 2, 1901. Mr. and Mrs. Osborn were members of the Baptist Church, which they joined in 1843. They had children as follows:

  1. Mary Slade Osborn, born Feb. 23, 1838, a resident of Fall River, was a teacher in the Morgan street school (now the 1st B. Borden school) for three years and for twelve years was a teacher in the Osborn street school
  2. Daniel Weaver Osborn, born June 7, 1840, died Feb. 5, 1863
  3. Thomas Frederick Osborn, born March 28, 1847, died May 11, 1857
  4. Anna Jane Osborn, born March 3, 1853, died July 11, 1861

James Munroe Osborn, youngest son of Thomas and Ann (Durfee) Osborn, was born at Tiverton, R. I., Aug. 27, 1822, and his mother being left a widow when he was eleven years old he remained with her on the farm for the next six years, meantime availing himself of such school advantages as the locality afforded. Then he learned the blacksmith’s trade with his brother Weaver, with whom he remained three years, until he was twenty. Going back to the farm he tried seine fishing for a time, but the results were unsatisfactory, and he resumed blacksmithing, in Providence, working there and at other places until 1845, the year of his coming to Fall River. Here he entered the employ of John Kilburn, with whom he remained until Mr. Kilburn died, a year or so later. He was next employed by Kilburn & Lincoln, until 1855, when he joined Weaver Osborn in the purchase of the blacksmith shop of Gideon Packard. It was situated on ground now occupied by the post office. There the brothers did business under the name of W. & J. M. Osborn. In 1859, interesting themselves in the movement which had lately been begun to make Fall River a manufacturing center, they helped to build the Union Mill, the construction of which was soon followed by that of other cotton mills. Subsequently they became identified with the Granite Mill, and in 1867 invested largely in the stock of the Merchants’ Manufacturing Company, and were also associated with others in the establishment of the Stafford Mill. By this time other and more important interests had superseded the business which the firm was organized to transact, and, retaining the name, they dropped the blacksmithing. In 1871 James M. Osborn was elected a director and first treasurer of the Slade Mill, the construction of whose buildings he superintended. He next, with his brother, became interested in the Osborn Mill, and later still in other manufacturing organizations. The copartnership of W. & J. M. Osborn continued until 1880. James M. Osborn was long a director in the Globe Yarn Mills, and remained for many years in the directorate of the Merchants’, the Osborn and the Stafford Corporations, being president of the first two named. He was also member of the board of investment of the Five Cents Savings Bank.

Covel & Osborn Company Letterhead Invoice, 1904
Covel & Osborn Company Letterhead Invoice, 1904

With all his business interests, Mr. Osborn managed to make himself useful to his fellow men in various capacities and assumed many responsibilities not at all obligatory except in a moral sense. Throughout his active years he gave much of his time and thought to ethical and religious matters. On April 2, 1843, he became a member of the First Baptist Church of Fall River, and in 1846 was dismissed with others to form the Second Baptist Church. It would be difficult indeed to name any one person who has been a greater friend to the latter body at any time during its history than Mr. Osborn. From 1884 to 1896 he was one of the deacons, declining to serve longer. For a very long period he was chairman of the standing committee of the corporation, and in that position did very efficient work in the care of the real estate of the society, its home buildings and its chapels. He superintended the moving of the chapels at various times in the course of the development of the chapel interests, and his devotion and unselfishness in the vital work of the church were freely admitted on all sides. Mr. Osborn was never given to public speaking, and in all his close relations with the church was conspicuous by his silence, but his actions were his best witness to the interest he had in the welfare of the organization. As he was a valuable worker in religious circles, so he was also to be counted on for the same service in the temperance and other causes for the betterment of mankind. Quiet but ever helpful and faithful, his cheerfulness, sincerity, steadiness of purpose and perfect integrity commended him to all.

In politics Mr. Osborn was first a Whig, later a Republican, and he took part in public matters as he did in every other line in which his sympathy or interest was aroused. In 1856, and again in 1858, he was a member of the board of aldermen, and in 1866 and again in 1871 he served the city as a member of the com-mon council. His substantial citizenship and high position gave, his influence much weight, and as a progressive but conservative worker he was considered a valuable public servant.

In 1859 Mr. Osborn completed the residence at No. 540 Cherry street where he made his home during the remainder of his life and where Mrs. Osborn still resides. He died there May 13, 1898, after an illness which lasted nearly a year, and was laid to rest in Oak Grove cemetery. On Aug. 9, 1847, Mr. Osborn married Mary B. Chace, born June 11, 1826, daughter of Nathan and Elizabeth (Buffinton) Chace, of Somerset, and three children were born to them:

  1. Anna Elizabeth Osborn, born April 5, 1850, who died July 1, 1850
  2. Nathan Chace Osborn, born Aug. 9, 1852, who died Jan. 28, 1855
  3. James Edward Osborn
Covel & Osborn Company
Covel & Osborn Company

James Edward Osborn was born in Fall River Jan. 24, 1856, and there received his education, graduating from the high school in 1872. He then entered the office of the Merchants’ Manufacturing Company as clerk under Treasurer William H. Jennings, remaining there two or three years. He next engaged in the cotton brokerage business, associated with B. P. Bandall under the firm name of B. F. Bandall & Co., and was thus occupied until 1884, in which year he purchased the interest of A. B. Sanford in the firm of Sanford & Covel, dealers in hardware and mill supplies, the firm becoming Covel & Osborn. Still later it was incorporated, under the name of the Covel & Osborn Company, of which Mr. Osborn became president, a position he has since filled. In July, 1896, Mr. Osborn was elected treasurer of the American Linen Company, succeeding the late Philip D. Borden, and in April, 1898, he became treasurer of the Merchants’ Manufacturing Company, succeeding Andrew Borden. Mr. Osborn maintains many important business relations, being a director of the Merchants’ Manufacturing Company, the American Linen Company, the Osborn Mills, the Ancona Company and the Parker Mills, all of Fall River; the Corr Manufacturing Company, of East Taunton; the Warren Manufacturing Company, of Warren, R. I.; and the Newmarket Mills, of Newmarket, N. H. He is a trustee of the Citizens’ Savings Bank and of the Home for Aged People, both of Fall River.

In political sentiment Mr. Osborn is a Republican, though not an active one, and fraternally he is a Mason, belonging to King Philip Lodge, A. F. & A. M., Fall River Chapter and Council and Godfrey de Bouillon Commandery, K. T. He is prominent socially, holding membership in a number of such organizations. He attends the Central Congregational Church.

In 1880 Mr. Osborn married Delia S. Carr, born Dec. 4, 1856, daughter of William and Elizabeth V. (Durfee) Carr, of Fall River, and they have had four children:

  1. Marion Osborn, born July 21, 1881, now the wife of Joseph F. Sherer and residing in Worcester, Mass. She has two children
    1. Osborn Sherer
    2. Jeanette Sherer
  2. Helen Osborn, born Sept. 22, 1882, who died Oct, 7, 1882
  3. Elizabeth Carr Osborn, born Jan. 28, 1889, who married Nov. 8, 1911, Leeds Burchard, son of the late Dr. Thomas Burchard of New York, and they reside in Fall River
  4. Richard Osborn, born July 22, 1891

Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts: containing historical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and genealogical records of many of the old families. 3 Volumes. Beers & Chicago. 1912.

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